Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI

My birthday has come and gone, and it remains only to thank the many people from around the world who took the time to wish me a happy birthday.  I was very touched by your kind wishes and words.  Writing this blog has introduced me to a world of folk with whom I have made a connection.  What began as a lark, suggested by my son, Patrick, as a way to fill the empty hours of retirement has become quite the most important part of my day.

Thank you to Jim, and to James, to Manisha and Dot and Kevin and Mickey, thank you to Jennifer and Charles and David and to C Rossi.  And my thanks to all those I have no doubt overlooked in the chaos of my desk and the jumble of my mind.

Thank you as well to all those who, it seems, wished me well on FaceBook [and wasn't I mean spirited to write negatively about that program just when people were using it to say kind things to me!]

Those of us of a progressive turn of mind face a daunting future here in the United States.  We dodged a bullet in the last election, but the deeper ills of this society remain, and grow progressively worse.  At the very top of my personal list of horribles I place the seemingly intractable and ever worsening inequality of wealth and income that is turning America into a Banana Republic.  We seem as a nation to be conducting a horrific experiment to see how close to 1 the Gini Coefficient of income distribution in America can come before the society collapses. 

Perhaps in the coming months we can try to figure out the extent to which it is structural features of capitalism in its current form that generate this ever-worsening inequality, and the extent to which it is political decisions that are, at least in principle, reversible.

Now, onward to eighty!

5 comments:

Jacob T. Levy said...

"We seem as a nation to be conducting a horrific experiment to see how close to 1 the Gini Coefficient of income distribution in America can come before the society collapses."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GiniPlots_USA.png

http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?QueryId=26068#

Whether pre- or post- tax-and-spend, the US Gini coefficient has been nearly flat since the mid 90s, after a long period of increase before that, and has been genuinely flat or falling since the financial crisis.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I am astonished by this, and do not know how to interpret it, but facts are facts. I stand corrected.

imcdpe said...

According to the same Wikipedia article cite above, while the pre-tax Gini coefficient in the US is more or less in line with other Western countries, the after-tax coefficient is much higher. Look at the UK, for instance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GiniPlots_UK.png, a fact that emphasizes the equalizing effect of taxation.

imcdpe said...

By way of comparison, the 1994 Gini index for South Africa at the end of apartheid was 0.593 (See http://wolfr.am/10x2KGW, it's not clear whether pre- or after-tax, although probably won't make a difference). You don't need to get anywhere close to one to get social instability.

NotHobbes said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GINIretouchedcolors.png